A classic rookie teaching mistake is to put on one’s syllabus a reading which has not been translated into a language one’s students can understand. This is what I did a year ago with the Kitab al-I’lam bi-manaqib al-Islam of al-‘Amiri (d. 992). This text is, among other things, a fascinating treatise in comparative religion (arguing, as the title suggests, for the superiority of Islam), as well as a defense of philosophy from Muslim critics. Not having a full translation from which to choose a pungent section, however, I hurriedly made my own translation of a single small section defending the study of logic, using logical means. I thought I’d include it here for general interest:
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The following is excerpted from the monumental biographical dictionary entitled Siyar A‘lām al-Nubalā’ by the fourteenth-century Damascene historian and hadith expert Shams al-Dīn Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Dhahabī (d. 748/1348). It provides some insight into the reign of Abū’Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Yūsuf ibn Hūd al-Judhamī (r. 625–635/1228–1238), an Andalusi emir who eventually established his control over much of al-Andalus in the early 13th century following the weakening of the Almohads. It describes the great hope in al-Andalus that accompanied his rise to power and the impact that the crushing defeat he suffered at the hands of Alfonso IX of León (r. 1188–1230) at Mérida had upon undermining his legitimacy. It ends with a short note about the rise of the Nasrids in Granada and an anecdote about Ibn Hūd’s nephew, the mystical philosopher Badr al-Dīn ibn Hūd (d. 700/1300), who al-Dhahabī claims to have met in Damascus.
Kitāb Fahm al-Qur’ān by al-Muḥāsibī: Excerpt from Section titled “Comprehension of the Qur’ān” Pt. II
Al-Muḥasibī, Al-Ḥārith Bin. Al-Aql Wa-Fahm Al-Quran. Edited by Husayn Quwwatli. Bayrut: Dar Al-Fikr Lil-Tibaah Wa-al-Tawzi, 1971, pp. 317-24.
From the Section
Concerning the Comprehension of the Qur’ān
(fī fiqh al-qur’ān)
And the Almighty and Exalted said: “Were not my signs recited to you?” Q 23:105.
And the Almighty said: “Indeed we had come to you with a book, which we expounded for you with knowledge a guide and a mercy for those who believe. Do they look for something other than its recitation? On the day in which its recitation comes, those who forgot it before will say: ‘Indeed the messengers of our lord have come with Truth, do we have with us an intercessor who will intercede for us or will we be returned?” Q 7:53.
For when the recitation of what the Almighty and Exalted had come to them, [primarily] that which…
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